NEWS

Peloponnese, Evia fires stoked by fresh conflagrations

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Wildfires in the regions Ilia and Messinia in the Peloponnese and on the island of Evia were stoked by fresh conflagrations overnight, despite the efforts of hundreds of firefighters to bring them under control and an easing of winds.

Ministers of Culture Lina Mendoni and Citizens’ Protection Michalis Chrysochoidis traveled to the Peloponnese late on Wednesday to take stock of the situation in Ilia, where a large wildfire is threatening the site and museum of Ancient Olympia, home of the first Olympic Games.

“Everything that can be done is being done” to protect the site, Mendoni said in comments to the press ahead of a difficult night of fresh flareups that are being tackled by water-dumping aircraft as of first light on Thursday.

“The biggest flareup was right behind the International Olympic Academy, but the airplanes, helicopters and firetrucks responded immediately,” the deputy regional governor of Ilia, Vassilis Giannopoulos, told the state-run Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA-MPA) on Thursday.

Abating winds overnight helped ease the situation in Messinia in the southwestern Peloponnese, though there are concerns about a fresh flareup when they pick up again, as forecast, later in the day. According to state broadcaster ERT, two water-dumping helicopters have been sent to the area and were making progress on Thursday morning 

In Evia, more villages in the island’s north had to be evacuated in the early hours of Thursday as a fire that started on Tuesday in forestland north of the seaside village of Limni broke up into separate fronts, spreading both further inland and down to the coast.

According to the ANA-MPA, the blaze had shown signs of ebbing until winds picked up again at around 3 a.m., pushing the fire toward houses in Amelandes. In the meantime, more firefighters were able to join the battle from Athens, after the Varybobi front was brought under control, though poor visibility is hampering the efforts of airborne units.

The worst of the damage from the Evia fire so far appears to be concentrated in the seaside village of Rovies, where dozens of residents and holidaymakers had to be evacuated by sea on Wednesday. According to local authorities, more than 150 houses have been destroyed or damaged.

In the meantime, help is expected to arrive on Thursday from France, which is sending 81 firefighters, and Sweden, with two water-dumping aircraft. Cyprus also sent firetrucks and firefighters on Wednesday.